4X4 Adventures Review
by Margarete Ardell
4X4 Adventures Safari
The best game viewing and photographic opportunities were in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area around Lake Ndutu. A lone crocodile, in one of the small lakes at the big swamp, grabbed a wildebeest calf and we managed to capture the moment.
Safari Company Performance
I travelled with 4X4 Adventures based in Arusha. I have used their Kenyan sister company, Sunworld Safaris, frequently.
The safari was tailor-made, based around our stay at Ndutu Lodge (a photographers paradise). Our guide, Hosea, was very competent and extremely knowledgeable. The vehicle was equipped with a pop up roof, a built-in fridge and there were power points so we could recharge battery packs whenever necessary.
4x4 Adventures provided a backpack with flasks for tea, coffee and milk and assorted cutlery, cups and plates. Hosea made sure that these flasks were filled every morning as we usually took packed breakfasts and lunches so that we could stay out all day.
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Accommodation and Meals
In Tarangire we stayed at the Tarangire Sopa Lodge. The rooms are large, the food is generally buffet style and the Indian options are definitely tastier! The lodge is located in the centre of the park (the entrance gate is situated at the northern end of the park as are most lodges) in a wooded area so not much of a view, however there are fewer vehicles driving around in the marsh area to the south of it. Here we managed to get great photographs of elephant in the river and not another vehicle in sight.
We stayed at Kirirumu Tented Camp, situated on the edge of the escarpment has views over Lake Manyara and the rift valley (best view from the bar deck nestled in the hillside below the restaurant). The accomodation is in tents with a wooden deck in front. The food was excellent.
Ndutu Lodge, set on the edge of Lake Ndutu, is a fairly basic lodge, but my favourite place in Tanzania. The location is a photographers dream and the resident genet cats offer their own live show on the beams above the restaurant once it gets dark. Fishers Lovebirds descend on the birdbath daily, a splash of colour and action. The food is fine. The rooms are simple and there are no sockets, so recharging battery packs, laptops, etc has to be done in the bar area, which is no problem at all as there are several outlets. The gift shop was the best we saw anywhere, although most items came from Kenya.
In the Serengeti we stayed at Serengeti Medium Camp, which sadly did not live up to expectations and which 4x4 Adventures, now no longer uses. The tents we had were a disaster and the attitude of the staff was not much better.
The Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge sits on the edge of the Crater and is the perfect location for an early start into the Crater as it has its own private road. The food and service were excellent. The rooms are huge and for the brave there is an outdoor swimming pool.
In Arusha we stayed at the African Tulip Hotel. A very stylish boutique hotel. This was our last night in Tanzania and they dusted our bags off before we could step into the lobby (they would have done the same to us too!) The food was good and the pool inviting.
As this was a photographic safari we spent much of the time eating packed breakfasts and lunches. Evening meals were always taken in the lodges or tented camps. The larger lodges had more selection, including Indian and African dishes. The best evening meal was at the Kirurumu Tented Camp.
We saw so many wonderful things. Elephant enjoying a power tussle in the river at Tarangire, lionesses hunting at the large swamp near Ndutu, a dung beetle going about its business near Naabi Hill Gate and wildebeest running on the Serengeti Plains in the late afternoon. We saw a lion resting on top of some kopjes in the morning and a leopard posing on a branch one evening near Seronera.
It is still dark when we get up. We walk over to the main building at the Ndutu Lodge to grab a cup of coffee and watch the genet cats parading overhead on the beams above the restaurant. Hosea, our driver/guide has already collected the breakfast and lunch boxes and the backpack with the flasks of coffee, tea and milk. We drive around to the far side of the lake and manage to get some nice shots of the landscape as the sun comes up.
We then head towards the marsh area, where we have seen action on a daily basis. We pause to watch some vervet monkeys grooming one another in a tree high above us. Further on we find two male cheetahs drinking from a stream. The light is perfect and we are well positioned to take advantage of this as they walk towards us. We drive on and see two giraffe in a dry riverbed looking intently towards the woodland. Ah, we think lions, but suddenly hundreds of wildebeest with calves and some zebras come rushing out of the trees. They hurry past the startled giraffe and head towards some water further up the valley. We follow at a distance. They rush to the waterhole as they are obviously thirsty, but the slightest movement and they dash away. As quickly as they came they take off over the hill and peace descends on the big swamp.
We decide that its time for breakfast so we park in the shade of a tree on a slight elevation overlooking the swamp area. It is getting very hot. Hosea, our guide, notices a lioness walking towards some bushes. She lies down and appears to go to sleep. We are debating where to go next when another large group of wildebeest charge down towards the water to slake their thirst. The "sleeping" lioness rockets out from under the bush and grabs a hapless wildebeest and another lioness materializes from nowhere to help. We drive closer and see some small cubs, probably only ten weeks old, emerging from the long grass. Once again amazing pictures. We eat our rather late lunch beneath another tree. Already the vultures are circling, although they are more interested in the wildebeest carcass than in our sandwiches!
Late afternoon and we see a herd of buffalo grazing. Beyond them something is moving. On closer inspection we find a family of bat-eared foxes emerging. We watch them for some time before heading back to the lodge for a much needed shower and a nice cold beer.
Dinner is served and the genet cats are awake, peering down at us with their large eyes. We sit around the campfire and look at the star filled sky. There is Orion high above us and the Southern Cross too. Somewhere a hyena calls and another replies. Our beds are calling us and so we go to our rooms after another perfect day. Soon we are fast asleep. Tomorrow will be another early start.
Advice and Tips
Use a reputable company.
Better to stay a few nights at one lodge in one park, rather than trying to be in a new lodge and a different park each night.
Take good binoculars
Drink plenty of water.
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